Sunday, October 25, 2020

Cancer: Aftermath

I feel like I have a lot to say, but I don't really want to voice any of it. Instead, I'll just dump my brain out and we'll see how it goes. 

The funeral was nice, insofar as funerals go. I think everyone honored Cathy with their words and their expressions of love and admiration for her. Several friends showed up, unannounced, just to pay their respects and be present. Most of my family was here, too. I managed to mostly keep it together. The church was kind enough to post the video on their Facebook page for the many people who could not attend. If you want to see it, it's still up.

For my birthday this year, my middle name was Duncan, because I Yo-Yo'ed up and down all day. Low points included missing my wife, and figuring out that my car wouldn't work and making plans to have it towed on Monday. Because, you know, insult to injury, and all of that nonsense.

Thanks to everyone who wished me happy birthday, and also to everyone who didn't, because there wasn't anything particularly happy about the day. You were quite right.

But I tried. I really did. And I'm going to keep on trying, because otherwise, what's the use? Don't answer that, it's rhetorical.

After the last two weeks, preceded by the last four months, my chest is starting to unclench and my breathing is back to normal. Somewhat. I keep getting into crying jags. I am still pacing the house. I'm still anxious, and scared. And sad. Just so heartbroken. I feel her absence, humming in the air like a high note that vibrates my sternum.

I'm going to look into grief counseling. After I fix the car. And pay the outstanding bills. And sign back up for health insurance (we were dropped.) And a half-dozen other things that suddenly need my attention. Somewhere in all of this, I need to have a real serious Come-to-Jesus meeting with myself about what happens next.

I have been incredibly lucky to have known from the age of 15 what I wanted to do with myself. And then I went and did it. Not a lot of people have that kind of clarity of vision, and I know it's a gift. But for the last twenty years, my goals have been intertwined with Cathy's goals. Oh, we had our side projects, too, but overall, we were always working on advancing our own desires and dreams as we helped the other person do the same.

Now I'm alone. And I have no idea what I want to do. For the first time since the age of fifteen, I have no direction, no heading, and no hand on the rudder. I hate the way this feels. I'll be taking some time off for a bit, so that I might figure out what the next phase of my life is going to be with the label "widower" attached to me like a barnacle I can't scrape off.

I'm tired. I'm tired of crying. I'm tired of getting hit with sudden waves of sadness, whack, in the face, like a creme pie made from depression and despair.

I can't get her deathbed out of my head. I close my eyes and I see it. I see her, arranged, eyes closed, and I can smell her skin and feel her hair on my cheek when I cradled her in my arms and sobbed. I have twenty years of great memories, good times, happy occasions, and all I can think about is her final minutes.

I'm not ready to accept this new state of being. It's still too raw. Too maddening. I was afraid of this happening. Alone in this house, pacing around like a caged animal, alternating between repeating lists of things I have to do, over and over, and crying out for my wife in an empty room , because I don't think I can do it all by myself.

Maybe I'm just wallowing. I don't want to let go of the pain, because I don't want to let go of her. I'm just so angry at everything right now. Things are going to move on with or without me, and I know that. This will likely fade into a dull ache. I'll have an epiphany or two and reorganize (and maybe even reinvent) myself and as time marches on, so shall I, older, wiser, ready for what comes next.

Eventually.

Right now, I think I want to just wallow. And I don't want you to see me like this.

 

13 comments:

Unknown said...

Hey, buddy - Craig, here. Grief counseling is a pretty good idea. And you'll find your compass, because there's too much love left in you. I'll keep a weather eye out in the meantime. Much love, brother.

Nahteboy said...

I agree that grief counseling might help. I realize it will take a while for the pain to go away. It never truly does. But, try and think of it this way. Letting go of the pain won't cause you to let go of her. It will let you flip it around and remember the love, caring, sharing, your dreams, and hopefully allow you to keep her memory alive while you carry on.

I didn't know Cathy as well as some of your other friends, but I was around her enough to see her generosity, humor, and the love you tow shared. She would definitely not want you to wallow or be depressed.

It's a bittersweet torch to carry, but honor her by holding it high in her memory as you move forward.

Melissa Harris said...

Mark I have followed ur every word throughout this experience and I can tell you that you have touched me through ur words and sharing ur experience that I cannot explain. It is clear that you are loved by many! I hope that if and when you feel like it you will post updates as time goes by. The main thing is 2 do whatever you want or need 2 do 2 get thru this chapter of your life.
Know that I as many, am still praying 4 you and think of you often!💙

Kimberley said...

Don't wait to do the counseling until after all the other things. There are tons of free groups through churches and stuff. Even if you don't love thebidea of a group it still gives you somewhere to let go and maybe pick up some ways to get through the day. xoxoxoxoxo

Jim Adcock said...

I stand by the recommendation I posted to Twitter - get your ass down here to Austin.

But even if it isn't Austin, get with people who care about you, wherever that happens to be.

Once upon a long damn time ago, I was so depressed I barely ate for nearly a week. But one evening, hanging out with friends, I forgot for a moment how awful I felt and without realizing it, I started eating again.

Hang out with people who you will engage with. It will put you more in the present moment, rather than in your head.

David Farnell said...

Thank you for sharing this, Mark. I hope it helps you as you move through your grief. It helped me. I just lost my dad to cancer, and couldn’t be there for it, with living overseas and covid and all. I’m wiping tears and just feeling it all a little bit more, which is better than being numb, no matter how much it hurts.

Shai said...

For me it was my mom. Don't Wait on the grief counseling. Do find a friend to talk to about the next things. Or anything. Let one person in. That's enough for now.
I am glad you witnessed her life, my friend. I am glad she had you.
(hugs)

Holly Hitch said...

My dearest friend...you are right about how it will change. And eventually what you will remember, is the beauty, love, and joyous times with her. It works backwards like that. You need anything, you contact me. And yes, the grief counseling helps with that feeling of drowning in the sorrow ocean. it helps to navigate it and find the proverbial floating plank to hold onto, the strength to face the waves until they calm. I love you.

Deirdre said...

Go somewhere, Mark. Go away. Safeky, yes, but go. Get a change. Get some air. Get out. It was the only thing that helped at all when I lost my child.

nephite blood spartan heart said...

Hang in there Mark. Hope we can box in the icehouse for Howard Days next year.

DeAnne D. said...

Hey darlin, grief counseling can't wait for that other stuff, which can wait. Also, my house is open and plenty big enough for you and the puppy. The squirrels and bunnies are getting cocky without Boo chasing them, so really, you'd be doing *us* a favor. I love you darlin, I'm always here if you need me.

Barbara V. Evers said...

I’m trying to fathom the pain and grief you’re experiencing, and I know I’m nowhere close to grasping the full spectrum. I read your words and feel the depth of emotions and honesty and see your efforts to put all of this into words. What I want to say might sound odd, but I want to thank you for giving me a glimpse of what this is like. A very close friend of mine—a member of my local writing tribe—passed away suddenly a few weeks ago. His wife, his best friend, is a very close friend and member of our group, too, They were always together. You didn’t see one without the other. The thought of her without him is so difficult to imagine. I believe reading your words has helped me be there for her better than I would have without reading about your journey. Thank you for helping me help her. I hope and pray you have people who do the same for you.

Cary Osborne said...

Hey, Mark. I do know what it's like to be where you are. I lost my husband a long time ago, but you don't forget the pain, the tears. The best thing anyone told me shortly after he died? One day, who knows when, you will realize you didn't think about her all day. And you'll cry, feel guilty. Further on, you'll realize it's been 5 years and you don't think of her every day. Oh, you do think of her, and that little hole in your heart. But you begin to remember the laughter, the warmth of being wrapped in their arms. In my case, I remember the sun shining down as we rode his motorcycle on Skyline Drive, my arms wrapped around him, not because I had to hold on. I had a sissy-seat after all. But just to feel him that close and sharing the ride, the day, the sun.
P.S. My current husband and I were both widowed, me at 40, him in his 50s. We found each other me after 28 years, him after 14. Life goes on and it can be wondrous.